Eight states Wednesday sued the Environmental Protection Agency over what they say is the agency’s lax regulation of emissions from wood-burning heaters, the latest in a battle that’s pitting red states against blue states over how much influence interest groups wield at the agency.
In the lawsuit, the state attorneys general maintain that the environmental regulatory office hasn’t properly enforced the Clean Air Act regarding pollution from wood burning.
“EPA’s 25-year-old standards are outdated, and do not cover outdoor wood boilers, a major source of air pollution in many communities,” said the lawsuit, filed by the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
But the case has also called into question whether the lawsuit was filed at the prompting of the EPA itself.
In July, 12 other states claimed that the EPA is often working with environmental advocates to create regulatory controversies, then using the conflicts as justification for tightening environmental regulation and regulation in response.
“This appears to be a blatant strategy by the EPA to go around the process and bend the rules to create environmental regulations that have failed in Congress,” said Oklahoma state Attorney General Scott Pruitt.
“If the EPA is making backdoor deals with environmental groups to push their agenda on the American people while bypassing the states and Congress, we need to know,” he continued.
Mr. Pruitt has sued for more information from the EPA, and is being joined by the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
Holly Doremus, an environmental law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said it’s not unusual for states to wrangle over regulation standards, with the EPA often caught in the middle.
“Obviously, states that are more committed to environmental protection are more likely to file suit against EPA saying, ‘You’re not doing enough,’” said Ms. Doremus, who also serves as the co-director of Berkeley’s environmental law program.
Spokesmen for the EPA have been furloughed due to the federal shutdown, and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said the current EPA regulations “simply haven’t kept pace with the proliferation of wood-burning devices or the availability of cleaner-burning units.”
Outdoor wood boilers burn wood to heat water, which is then pumped inside to heat a house. Smoke and particulate matter from the boilers can often be dense.
The EPA estimates that soot from the wood-burning devices contributed to about 13 percent of fine-particle pollution in 2008. Exposure to fine particle pollution can lead to asthma, heart attacks or death, the agency said.
In the lawsuit, the states say the problems are a particular problem in the Northwest, Northeast, and Midwest. The states were also joined in their lawsuit by a number of advocacy groups, including the American Lung Association, the Clean Air Council, the Environmental Defense Fund and Environment and Human Health, Inc.